Many factors play into what makes a music venue great. From size to sound quality to vibe and ambiance, it all matters. Miami’s music scene is ever-evolving. Although locals are still dealing with the loss of some of the city’s favorite venues, let's take a second to highlight some of the current best.
Here are Miami’s ten top live music venues:
1. The Fillmore Miami Beach at the Jackie Gleason Theater
1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com
The Fillmore is everything you could want in a music venue. It boasts a huge stage, impeccable sound, killer lighting, and comfortable seating. Here is where you’ll catch acts that won’t draw crowds large enough to fill the American Airlines Arena. There’s a pit toward the front (wear armor if this is your option), standing room in the middle, and comfortable theater-style seating in the back. Bars are located on both sides, so you never miss a beat. Music posters of past shows adorn the walls of this elegant venue. Who doesn’t love memorabilia? Popular TV shows from the 1960s were frequently filmed in this art deco building. Jackie Gleason moved his show to this Miami Beach theater, and the rest was history.
2. Churchill’s Pub
5501 NE Second Ave., Miami; 305-757-1807; churchillspub.com
Just past the double-decker bus stands one of the most infamous music venues in Miami history. Your Magic City residency isn’t official if you haven't crossed the threshold of this legendary dive. The building is primed with sweat, spit, and beer, which is probably why it's been standing for almost 40 years. The venue’s extensive roster includes just about every great local punk, metal, hardcore, jazz, and rock band. There are both indoor and outdoor stages, TVs to catch your favorite soccer (ahem, football) matches, and pool tables. The standing area around the indoor stage gives punks enough room to get unapologetically rowdy. Pretty much every show here is memorable. You just never know what you’ll witness on the stage, because anything goes.
176 NW 24th St., Miami; 305-699-2669; gramps.com
Chugging cold beer to keep cool in Miami’s unforgiving humidity is a local pastime. And we wouldn’t want to do it anywhere other than Gramps. As the sign out front states, Gramps offers air conditioning, cold beer, and cocktails. But it offers so much more. This Wynwood haunt is a favorite to catch locals shred as if their lives depended on it. National acts also roll through pretty frequently, and the tickets are always decently priced. Gramps has two stages: the backroom, dubbed Shirley’s, and the outdoor stage, which also doubles as a tiki hut. Shirley’s provides an intimate setting for music lovers to enjoy live music and great vibes. To top it all off, Gramps offers delicious Brooklyn-style pizza, hot wings, garlic knots, and cafecito at its Pizza Tropical.
4. North Beach Bandshell
7275 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-672-5202; northbeachbandshell.com
We live where most people vacation. We get to enjoy music outdoors near the beach while others are bundled up in ten layers and stuck in snow. This thriving North Beach pearl gives music fans the opportunity to appreciate the city’s beauty while swaying in the ocean breeze and watching live concerts under the stars. The venue’s beach location is a quintessential Miami concert experience. The North Beach Bandshell hosts local and national acts and has even been home to music festivals such as FM, House of Creatives, and GroundUp. Bonus: Cheap parking is available across the street.
5. Olympia Theater
174 E. Flagler St., Miami; 305-374-2444; olympiatheater.org
Get up. Go to work. Go home. Wake up the next day and do it all over again. The 9-to-5 grind blows. You’re probably dreaming about that trip to the Mediterranean right about now. If you can’t quite swing that getaway just yet, a visit to the exquisite Olympia Theater might sate that wanderlust in the meantime. Smack in the middle of bustling downtown Miami lies a little slice of heaven that you might not have even known was there. The Olympia Theater is a Magic City favorite that’s been around since 1926. It opened as a silent-movie palace. With its charming Mediterranean courtyard, simulated night sky, golden balconies, and opulent decor, this magnificent theater is surreal. It's historic and seriously one of the dreamiest places you'll ever enter.
6. Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722; arshtcenter.org
It’s hard to believe that the Adrienne Arsht Center celebrated its tenth year of programming last October. Time flies when you’re watching legendary acts such as Patti LaBelle, the Roots, the Beach Boys, Morrissey, and B.B. King. If you’re picky about acoustics, the Knight Concert Hall at the Arsht Center is where you need to be. According to the performing arts center, the hall is known for state-of-the-art acoustics and seats 2,200 people. The grandeur of the Arsht alone is reason enough to enjoy a concert here.
1306 N. Miami Ave., Miami; 305-377-2277; 1306miami.com
Feels like only yesterday when Miami’s night-crawlers would spend an evening hopping from the Vagabond to PS14 to White Room. Never forget the great trifecta surrounding North Miami Avenue and NE 14th Street. The bar that stands at 1306 N. Miami Ave. has changed hands often over the years. It’s gone from White Room to Eve and now 1306 (pronounced thirteen oh six). We pray this one is here to stay. The venue has been open for just over a year and has already brought an impressive roster of acts, such as Angel Olsen, Kelela, and Classixx. The renovated space is divided into two sections: the bar and the event space. The Bar at 1306 is a dark and cozy spot with a few candlelit tables and booths. The 400-capacity venue is the perfect size to comfortably take in a show without someone accidentally spilling a drink on you.
8. Ball & Chain
1513 SW Eighth St., Miami; 305-643-7820; ballandchainmiami.com
Ball & Chain is a Calle Ocho landmark. Established in 1935, this place has such rich history. It's situated in Little Havana, so you can practically smell the cafecito brewing the second you pull up. This iconic venue has authentic Cuban flair and is a must-see for out-of-towners. From the ball-and-chain door handles to the unique decor to the ornate tiles, it's the details that make this venue truly stand out. The calendar of events is always stacked with live performances ranging from salsa to jazz. If watching a live band perform inside a humongous pineapple structure is on your bucket list, you’re in luck. Ball & Chain’s spacious garden hosts performances on the Pineapple Stage as well as on the indoor one. The indoor stage (not a pineapple) is much smaller, but music fans can enjoy a show from the comforts of a booth. Music, mojitos, and mariquitas de maduros. Yes, please.
3456 N Miami Ave., Miami; 305-576-5570; bardotmiami.com
It’s 5 p.m. and you’re driving home in Miami’s horrendous commute. Traffic is at a standstill. Ah, a glimmer of hope. You hear a new band come up on your Spotify “Discover Weekly” playlist. You furiously check when the group is coming to Miami, only to discover you’ve already missed the performance. Bardot is notorious for bringing acts way before they’re on most people’s radar. The place showcases local and national acts across all genres. This chic venue, with comfy couches, artwork, bookshelves, and a pool table, looks like a living room. But don't miss the carpet that takes the place of an elevated stage. Watching a show here is an intimate experience because acts perform at eye level. If you don’t want to get stuck staring at the back of someone’s head, arrive early.
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10. Bayfront Park Amphitheatre
301 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-358-7550; bayfrontparkmiami.com
It’s finally time to get out the blanket (that’s probably still full of dirt and grass) you bought at that music festival. Pack it, head over, and get comfy for a show at Bayfront Park Amphitheatre. This venue is surrounded by the high-rises that define the epic Miami skyline. Bayfront Park is also home to Ultra Music Festival, where the amphitheater serves as the Live Stage. So you already know it gets loud. This green oasis offers both reserved and lawn seating. The grass fills up quickly, though, so try not to run on Miami time. The venue has superb sound and great views of the stage pretty much all around. Booze and food are readily available about every seven steps. To avoid the highway robbery that is downtown Miami parking, take the free Metromover.